Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and utterly strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person - while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman, but eager for her return.
Still in love (somewhat to his surprise and delight), they go on a Caribbean cruise to resume their marriage. Their vacation rapidly becomes a complex series of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom. There is no writer in SF like Gene Wolfe and no SF novel like Home Fires.
"It won't be long," she promised.
"Not for you," Skip said. "A thousand years for me." Chelle smiled, and all heaven was in her smile.
* * *
Then he was looking down at his hands, and they were wrinkled and old. He stood before a mirror, but there was a mist between them that veiled his face from its own eyes. He raised his hand to push the mist away, knowing that his hand shook, knowing that horror waited beyond the mist.
He woke, sweating and trembling in his narrow bed, rose and went to the washbasin, poured water from the pitcher there into the bowl. The water smelled a little like sewage, but it felt cool and refreshing.
He soaked the cloth again, scrubbed his sweating face a second time. It was only a dream.
Only a dream.
In his dream he had gotten a yellow autoprint that had said she was back and he had been back too, back to the day she left. They had kissed...
That had been the dream. What had really happened?
He got a ...
As with most good speculative fiction, this imagined future is used to explore current ideas. In Home Fires, Wolfe explores two big questions: What is love and what is death? ...This strange, surprising book is clearly written by a master. Although definitely not a book for everyone, I think Home Fires is great fun, and well worth the work involved on the reader's part.
(Reviewed by Beverly Melven).
Full Review (715 words).
Critically acclaimed author Gene Wolfe writes in the genres broadly described as sci-fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. He is prolific, writing novels, poetry, novellas and short stories. His awards include two Nebulas, three Locus awards, a British Science Fiction Association award, a Lifetime Achievement award from the World Fantasy Association, and induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.
Born in New York state in 1931, he served in the Korean War between 1952-54, later graduating from the University of Houston with a degree in Medical Engineering. After that he spent about 15 years as an engineer at Procter & Gamble (among other projects, developing the machine that cooks Pringles) before leaving to edit ...
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